Few places in the United States are more staunchly liberal than the Upper West Side of Manhattan. And so few things are more galling to many residents of a residential complex there than the big letters that greet them at their building: T-R-U-M-P P-L-A-C-E.
On Thursday, condo owners will join three neighboring buildings in finally getting their relief.
Workers will pry the letters off the front and back of 200 Riverside Boulevard, a 46-story building between 69th and 70th Streets. The building will simply be called: 200 Riverside Boulevard.
Residents at other Trump-branded condominiums in New York, Stamford, Conn., and Chicago have considered taking similar actions since Donald J. Trump plunged into the presidential race, but they’ve been stymied by a lack of support and fears of costly litigation or a drop in the value of their homes. The challenge of untangling the licensing agreements signed with the Trump Organization has also been an obstacle.
The condominium at 200 Riverside Boulevard, however, figured out a way.
The building bought the right to use the Trump name in 2000, paying $1 under a four-page licensing agreement signed by Mr. Trump. But the sentiment about having his name over the front door changed during Mr. Trump’s campaign. Many residents sought to distance themselves from his politics.
For some, the once ubiquitous Trump brand, which adorned apartment buildings, hotels, casinos, golf courses, steaks, suits and water, does not have the same appeal it used to have before Mr. Trump’s political career.
Eric Chung, a longtime resident of 200 Riverside Boulevard whose family owns two units in the building, said that he had been concerned about the cost of litigation and the fate of the building’s “great employees.” But after a court decision and a recent survey of the owners in the building, the majority of whom wanted the name taken off, he said that removing the Trump letters “makes a very powerful statement.”
Eric Trump, who has assumed a leading role at the Trump businesses, declined to comment on Wednesday.
In Manhattan, there were 15 residential buildings that bore the Trump name in 2015. The next year, a trio of neighboring rental apartment buildings just to the south of 200 Riverside Boulevard pulled the name off their facades, the lobby rain mats and employees’ uniforms after 300 people signed an online petition titled, “Dump the TRUMP Name.”
“We were driven by our intense feelings about Trump himself,” Linda Gottlieb, a resident at one of the Trump-branded apartment buildings, said in a recent interview. “We would not have stayed in the building we felt so strongly about it. We just renewed our lease for two years.”
Ailing hotels in Toronto and New York paid the Trumps millions of dollars to remove the Trump name from their properties. The owner of a Trump hotel in Panama used a crowbar to remove the Trump letters.
Business has remained steady or declined at some Trump-branded hotels, as well as at the city-owned golf course, carousel and ice skating rinks operated by the Trump Organization in New York City.
The push to remove the Trump branding from 200 Riverside Boulevard began in 2017. In response to concerns raised by some of the 377 condo owners, the condo board began discussions of possibly removing the Trump name from the building’s facade.
That February, 63 percent of the unit holders who responded to an informal poll favored removing the “Trump Place” letters on the building.
But a month later, Alan Garten, chief legal officer of the Trump Organization, sent a letter to the board promising a lawsuit if it did, saying the company would seek “significant amounts of damages, costs and attorney’s fees.”
The prospect of expensive litigation with the Trump Organization scared many residents, and a small group vigorously opposed excising the Trump name.
An internal message board for residents showed that division.
“I am adamant that the sign should remain on the building,” a resident wrote. “We bought in the building with it. There is no reason to take it down.”
Another wrote: “Arguably, at one time the Trump name may have contributed something to the value of our apartments. That is clearly not the case today.”
After overcoming some internal divisions, the condo board devised a low-key strategy with its lawyer Harry W. Lipman: It would ask the State Supreme Court for a declaratory judgment that it was not required to retain the Trump name under the building’s licensing agreement. The agreement required that the condo maintain the building on par with “superluxury condominiums,” but it did not mention any requirement that the Trump name remain in perpetuity.
In May, the judge ruled in favor of the condo owners, saying that the agreement does not require owners “to use the identification ‘Trump’ on the facade of the premises.” She firmly rejected claims by Trump lawyers that the building is required to use the name “in perpetuity.”
Lawyers for the D.J.T. Holdings, a Trump company, vowed to appeal the decision. The deadline for an appeal expired Oct. 1 without any action.
The board conducted a formal poll of condo owners that ended Oct. 10. Nearly 70 percent of the condo owners who voted said they wanted to “remove the signage” on the building.
The board estimated it would cost about $23,000 to remove the 20 letters from the building and wash the facade.
The Trump Organization’s contract to manage the condo building expires at the end of 2019. The building’s employees work for the condominium, not for the Trump Organization.
Trump apartments in 2017 sold for an average of $1,741 per square foot in Manhattan, or 6.6 percent less than the average Manhattan condominium, according to CityRealty, an online apartment broker. At Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, average prices per square foot declined from $3,000 in 2013 to about $2,000 last year.
“Branding your business is a double-edge sword,” said Daniel Neiditch, the president of River 2 River Realty in New York. “Being president of the United States is a popularity contest. Fifty percent of the country loves the guy; 50 percent hates the guy and what he’s doing with the presidency. That trickles down into real estate.”